Indian food or Indian cuisine covers a wide diversity of regional cuisines indigenous to India. The cuisines differ extensively from each other because they use locally available ingredients such as herbs, fruits, spices and vegetables. These cuisines are also influence by various factors such as cultural and religious believes. Indian food uses a whole combination of flavors- sour, spicy, sweet and hot making Indian food unique and exciting. The interaction of India with various cultures and groups in the continent has led to the diversification of regional foods and flavors found in India today.
Ingredients that make up Indian food
Indian staple foods include: whole –wheat flour, rice, pearl millet (bajra), lentils such as masoor, urad, moong and toor. Pulses are also common, such as lobiya, rajma and channa.
The most commonly used and important spices include: Black mustard (sarso), cumin (scars), cardamom (elaichi), chili pepper (mirch), turmeric (haldi), garlic (lehsun), coriander (dhania), ginger (adrak), asafetida (hing) and garam masala. Rose petal essences, nutmeg, saffron and cardamon are mostly used to flavor sweet dishes.
The most regularly used leaves for flavoring Indian food include: Mint, fenugreek, coriander and bay leaves. South Indians are well known for using roots and curry leaves to flavor food.
Most Indian foods are cooked in peanut oil (in Western and Northern India), coconut oil (along the Western Coast), mustard oil (eastern India) and vegetable oil which is the most common.
Indian cuisine is divided into different regional cuisines, some of which include:
- Andaman and Nicobar Islands: Mainly consists of sea food and fruits.
- Haryana: Dairy products are widespread in this cuisine. Pakora, churma, besan masala, kadhi and badhua are some of the common dishes.
- Andhra Pradesh: The staple food is rice which is rich in spices and is eaten with a range of lentil soups and curries. Yogurt is usually taken together with the meals to counter the spiciness of the food.
- Assamese: Known for its minimal use of spices but uses herbs for flavors. Fresh or dried vegetables and fruits make a large proportion of the meal.
- Arunachal Pradesh: Rice, leafy vegetables, fish and meat are the staple foods. Rice beer is very popular in this cuisine.
- Bihari: Common dishes include dalpuri, meat saalan, litti chokha, malpua and balushahi.
- Daman and Diu: Mainly consists of sea food. Lapsee, puri, potaya and dhakanu are popular during festivities. Western foods are also available.
- Dadra and Nagar Haveli: Roti, rice, fish, crab and vegetables are the most common foods. Buttermilk, herbs and fruits also make up the diet.
- Gujurat: It is a vegetarian cuisine. Made up of a variety of vegetables; this can be spicy or sweet depending on the region.
- Chhattisgarh: Uses foods that are not available in other parts of India such as bamboo vegetable, bamboo pickle, mushrooms, and squirrels. The staple food is rice
- Goa: There are intense flavors in Goa because it has a tropical climate. Staple foods are fish and rice often served with coconut milk. Bread accompanies most of the meals.
Eating habits of India and Indians
A healthy breakfast is regarded as a very important meal in the Indian diet. Preferences vary regionally though most Indians prefer to drink coffee or tea (chai) together with breakfast. South Indians have a preference for dosas and idlis together with various chutneys while North Indians favor parathas, roti and a vegetable dish together with pickles and some curd.
Lunch usually consists of two or more varieties of vegetables and other items such as parathas, naan or kulcha. In East and South India, rice is the main dish while whole wheat rotis is the main dish in North and West India. Desserts are also eaten after meals in some parts of India.
Dinner is deemed as the main meal. Families often come together for ‘evening breakfast’ to drink tea, eat snacks and have family conversations.
Many Indians normally eat desserts after meals to help in digestion which include: jalebi, gulab jamun, rasgulla, Kheer, chikki, barfi, mysore pak, shrikhand, sandesh, kuju katli and rabri. Most of them are made with sugar and condensed milk but the desserts vary depending on the regions. Indians lay great emphasis on eating healthy diets. It is no doubt that the Indian cuisine is intriguing and an amazing experience to those who have not tasted the Indian cuisine before.